Being military in the Post-9/11 world is a strange little thing. Are military folks America’s heroes? America’s political tool? Or a bunch of normal people who move around a lot?
It is hard to know—especially during this recent government shutdown. Molly Blake of Blue Star Families free ebook Everyone Serves asked bloggers this week about why it seems like military families bear the brunt of these massive government events and what we can do to be less vulnerable.
That’s a good question. The military was certainly portrayed as America’s heroes when their paychecks were threatened and a coalition of 33 veterans’ service organizations representing 5.5 million members met at the National World War II Memorial to protest.
No one likes the idea of a servicemember deployed overseas with no paycheck.
The military was a political tool used to shame Congress when the families of 29 active duty members (including Army Rangers) were killed overseas during this government shutdown and their death benefits were denied. President Obama had to step in to sign special legislation.
No one likes the idea of widows and orphans and stricken parents accepting a folded flag with no resources to bury their fallen.
While it can be annoying and anxiety provoking for military members to be the example trotted up before the country every time something like this happens, it is part of the job.
Put on a uniform and you have a different relationship with your country.
Put on a uniform and the country also expects something better from itself when it comes to you. They think veteran homelessness, unemployment and a lack of a cure for PTSD are unacceptable outcomes if you have served our nation.
That’s all good stuff, really.
The thing is that we have learned over the past decade that these feelings about the military really are about the military as a group. We don’t expect the cheering, the flag waving, and the indignation to trickle down to the individual servicemember.
Most recently I noticed this at the Inc. 500 Conference in Washington DC. Entrepreneur and veteran Norm Brodsky urged the group of military entrepreneurs to identify what their greatest asset is right now.
The crowd had lots of ideas: Discipline? Motivation? Hard work? Innovation?
All good answers, but not the one Brodsky was looking for. When they seemed flummoxed, Brodsky had to give them the answer: you are military. The country loves people in the military.
The military entrepreneurs were no less flummoxed. When I looked around the room I could see them all chewing on that idea. While they knew what Brodsky meant, they also knew that when it came to their own efforts the military thing was a small tool in their personal arsenal. Maybe they had that experience in their real lives of being treated like people in funny clothes who just move around a lot.
So how do we become less vulnerable to that feeling of being pitched from America’s heroes, to America’s political tool to America’s movers? I don’t know if that is even possible. Vulnerability is a part of relationships. Holding different roles is part of relationships. Having times in which you are not quite sure where you are is often part of relationships.
I just keep reminding myself that our nation’s relationship with the military is a long one. It is marked with good years and bad years. Celebratory years. Disgraceful years. Surely we are moving in a positive direction, slowly. So slowly.
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